Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blue Flag

Blue Flag -- © Dave Spier

The Larger Blue Flag, Iris versicolor, or Fleur-de-lis, is the native alternative to the invasive Yellow Iris. These beautiful perennial herbs are cross-fertilized by honeybees, bumblebees and the Syrphid flies that are often mistaken for bees. In return, the iris provides sustenance in the form of nectar for these insects.

The pollen-producing stamens are hidden inside the iris at the base of the three "falls," the drooping, bluish petals with violet veins curving to the yellow runways that lead to the interior. To get inside, the insects crawl under the arching female styles where pollen is dislodged.

Syrphid fly visiting Larger Blue Flag at
Seneca Meadows Wetland Preserve - © Dave Spier

Several small, long-tongued butterflies have "learned" to bypass the pollen trap and go directly to the nectar between the divisions, thus depriving the iris of cross-pollination.

To learn more about native plants and their role in the environment, visit Habitat Gardening in Central New York, a chapter of Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes, or contact me at Also visit the parallel blog for a profile of another wetland species, the Cinnamon Fern.

1 comment:

The Northeast Naturalist said...

Here's a related website with more on native-plant landscaping:
The link to Wild Ones is in case you want to check for a local chapter [or start one! if there isn't].